Betty Ford 1918-2011
Betty Ford was born Elizabeth Anne Bloomer in Chicago in 1918 and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan where her family moved when she was two years old. Betty’s family was well off and she had many advantages including dance lessons from an early age and attendance at the Bennington School of Dance after high school. She was accomplished enough to become part of the Martha Graham dance company in New York City.
She returned to Grand Rapids in 1941 and taught dance to underprivileged and disabled children. After a brief first marriage and divorce, she met and married Gerald Ford, a budding politician. The coupled moved to Washington, D.C. following his election to the House of Representatives. In the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon resigned and Gerald Ford became President, making Betty Ford the First Lady. Her years in the White House were known for her relaxed style and good relations with the staff.
While many people knew of her struggle to overcome breast cancer, few people knew of her long-term battle with addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs. In 1978, she bravely confronted her problems and entered a hospital for treatment. The Betty Ford Center, near Palm Springs, CA, is a direct result of her pledge to stay sober and help others do the same. Throughout her life she was an outspoken advocate for women’s issues including the Equal Rights Amendment. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1999.
“I am an ordinary woman who was called onstage at an extraordinary time”